In the small town of Sighet, Hungarian Transylvania, we are introduced to our main character Eliezer, along with his mother, father, and sister. It immediately becomes apparent that Elie has a great desire to obtain further knowledge about Judaism, specifically the teachings of the Kabbalah. Elie then seeks out the wise Moishe the Beadle to teach him ideas from this religion.
During World War II, the Jews began to question whether or not the war will die down by the time it reaches Hungary. Moishe the Beadle, along with other foreign Jews get deported. Luckily, Moishe managed to escape while the SS officers slaughtered other Jews. When Moishe returned back to Sighet, he warned the people of the horrible things that would come, but no one chose to believe him.
After the German soldiers arrive in Sighet, two ghettos form. Life in the first ghetto was rather peaceful, but then the Jews were forcefully pushed into a second ghetto with harsh living conditions. From there, the Jews were shoved into a cattle car to which Mrs. Schachter repeatedly shouts about how she “see[s] a fire” (Wiesel 24). Three days go by and the Jews reach their first destination, which is Birkenau.
Once Elie’s family arrived at Birkenau, they were immediately separated by gender. They were then greeted with a death defying situation known as the “selection”. Although they survive, Elie and his father were transported to various places after that: From Birkenau, they made their way to up Auschwitz, and then reached their “final” destination in Buna to work in an electrical factory. After witnessing several brutal executions and experiencing abuse in the camp, Elie’s frustration towards God grew resulting in the loss of hope.
Months later in Buna, Elie undergoes and operation on his foot. During this time, the camp gets evacuated and Elie and his father are put to the test when a fifty mile run is required to reach Buchenwald. During this death march, many die due to the harsh conditions they have to face and only 12 remain alive. Eliezer's father repeatedly states how it is better if he does not go on because he doesn’t feel well.
The date January 29, marks the day that Eliezer's father passed away; also symbolizing how Elie had lost himself during this journey. Although Elie was sad his father died, he also felt relief...a feeling that he prayed would never come across him. Eliezer was ashamed of the person he had become. Instead of mourning over the loss of his dad, he was worried about how much food he had left: “With only one desire: to eat. I no longer thought of my father, or my mother” (Weisel 113). Even though Elie survived the torture, he does not know who he is. Elie was liberated January 11, 1945.